Non-profits and charities can't afford to lose grassroots donors due to tax reform

Non-profits and charities can't afford to lose grassroots donors due to tax reform
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As a 29-year-old emergency room nurse, Kelly Waters was educated about cancer but shrugged off a lump in her breast that didn’t go away. The ultrasound concerned her physician, but not Kelly. Even after the biopsy she thought it was just a benign cyst, nothing to worry about.

She only faced reality once the call came a week later telling her she needed a lumpectomy. That wasn’t all. Doctors found another tumor during a later MRI. A mastectomy soon followed. Kelly has cried plenty of tears. She has talked frankly about her diagnosis. And now, she’s helping others.

We empower a network of informed advocates to spread awareness, to ensure that each of the quarter of a million of American women and men who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year are equipped to get the help they need.


Every volunteer, every dollar, and every voice for breast cancer awareness and treatment improves our ability to reach women like Kelly, and enable them to be tenacious advocates for their own health. That’s why we need to think carefully about how major policy changes affect our outreach and capacity.

The tax plans currently under consideration by Congress include a measure that would cause real harm to many organizations, including outs to support positive health outcomes — as well as to the nonprofit sector as a whole. Both the Senate and House plans would roughly double the size of the standard deduction, the amount that households can subtract from their taxable income if they choose not to take more specific, itemized, deductions. While there is surely merit in simplifying the tax code, this policy would result in a real and painful cost to American nonprofit organizations.

Raising the standard deduction means that fewer households would choose to itemize deductions, which makes charitable contributions a less appealing financial prospect, as they would no longer reduce the amount of income on which people have to pay taxes. The University of Indiana’s Lilly School of Philanthropy projects that this disincentive could lead to as much as $13 billion less in charitable giving next year.

Not only would this mean that organizations have less money to invest in the services we offer, it also means that fewer people will be donors. This is critically important, because a donation of any size creates a bond between the donor and the organization.

When someone supports Komen with a contribution, for example, they become a part of an activist community that needs to be as broad as possible to ensure that we reach women like Kelly.

We can’t afford to lose our grassroots donors. It would mean that our local Affiliates, who do so much of the on-the-ground work to connect people to education and services, will have fewer resources to spread our message and help women and men in their communities.

This would be a retreat in the fight against breast cancer, and would put the lives of women and men at risk. We need to find a policy alternative that incentivizes donors and allows us to continue to inform and empower people to protect their health.

Fortunately, lawmakers in both parties and in both houses of Congress are already doing just that. Republican Representative Mark Walker and Republican Senator James LankfordJames Paul LankfordSenate passes resolution condemning recent rise in antisemitic attacks Police reform negotiations enter crucial stretch GOP turns against Jan. 6 probe as midterm distraction MORE, as well as Senators Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowSenate crafts Pelosi alternative on drug prices Lobbying world Schumer tactics on China bill reveal broader trade strategy MORE and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenFive takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision Schumer vows to only pass infrastructure package that is 'a strong, bold climate bill' Supreme Court upholds ObamaCare in 7-2 ruling MORE, both Democrats, have introduced fixes that would allow taxpayers to take the standard deduction and continue to itemize their charitable contributions.

We need lawmakers, as well as the public, to rally around these measures and ensure that tax cuts don’t cause pain for charities and the people they serve.

Kelly Waters was informed and prepared to face whatever her doctors were going to tell her, but there are too many women and men out there who don’t have the knowledge Kelly had. Charitable organizations like ours can help, but we rely on the support of millions of people in communities across the country to continue our mission to end breast cancer.

Paula Schneider, a breast cancer survivor, is President and CEO of Susan G. Komen.